Video and Writing

How can I get my students excited about writing?

Of course we all have those students who are naturally motivated writers, however we also all have those handful of kids that are…not.  I remember discussing this with my husband and he said that story writing was what he disliked most about school.  He could never think of anything to write about so it ended up a painful process for him.  Yes, we can give picture prompts and sentence starters and have brainstorming sessions and provide graphic organizers to help out, but I still ended up frustrated because I felt like I was constantly nagging some students to write.

Then, in February, I went to Google Summit in Edmonton.  One of the sessions I went to was  a YouTube in the Classroom presentation (Jim Sill).  It really got me to thinking about the impact video can make not only in terms of student creativity but in motivation and ideas.  I’ve used video several times these last few months to accompany writing projects (student blogs, story writing, journal writing, etc.) and it has absolutely made a difference in the quality of our writing.  The students seem to get much more excited to capture their visual images onto paper.  They have more schema to use their descriptive words and ideas and they are more open to write them down. Their work sounds more natural and their voice comes through much more clearly.

Here is a video that I was introduced to at that YouTube session.  I showed it to my students to kickstart strong story ideas.  They were so excited to not only get writing, but to share their stories when they were complete.  For some, this was one of the first times they’d felt success and pride for their written work.  We all loved this project, and I definitely attribute much of it’s sucess to the use of a great and purposeful video.–7ZVJmDVv4wsnzakgxuvD_vK


What’s So Great About Twitter

By @mSchlemko & @sahlinvic

Do you want to … 

  • Learn from others by extending your personal learning network (PLN)?
  • Keep up to date on current research, trends and news?
  • Get new ideas about what you are passionate about?
  • Get feedback from peers and experts?
  • Connect and collaborate with others around the world?

Twitter is an excellent social media device that allows you to do all of this in an instant.

Video: Twitter in 60 Seconds

What my Connections on Twitter Means to Me

by Alec Couros via flickr
  • Daily professional development
  • Help and support from my peers and experts
  • Chat groups based on my needs and areas I would like to grow and contribute
  • Answers/feed back from peers that understand the challanges of the education field
  • Connections for me and my classroom to the world
  • Social Connections with others you wish also taught in your building

Others Thoughts

Traci Landry (@tlandrydtsd)
11-08-22 2:29 PM I think being on twitter is like attending the best conference in the world and you get to pick the speakers.

Beth Still – What My Connection on Twitter Means to Me – Blog entry, June 8, 2011

Useful Twitter Links

twitter 2

Twitter for Educators:  A Beginners Guide

28 Ways Teachers are Using Twitter in the Classroom

Welcome to The Twitter4Teachers Wiki!

Digital Citizenship

Livebinder 7 Habits of Digital Citizenship

What do you need to think about as far as digital citizenship for ourself and for your students?

Where to Go Next

How do you see Twitter benefiting you personally, professionally and your school?

School discussion – Should your school allow Twitter to be accessible in your building?

What would be the purpose of Twitter in your school?

What are the foreseeable benefits and risks?

Parent Communication To vs With

10 Suggestions for Twitter in Public School

Defending from Twitter Overload

How to Get Started with Twitter and Building Your PLN

Video: Twitter for Teachers – Part 1 – Setting up Your Twitter Account

Twitter for Teachers – Part 1 from shannon smith on Vimeo.

Video:Twitter for Teachers – Part 2 – Creating Your Twitter Profile, Sending a Tweet and Replying to a Tweet.

Twitter for Teachers – Part 2 from shannon smith on Vimeo.

Video: Twitter for Teachers – Part 3 – Retweeting, Favorites and adding to your PLN

Twitter for Teachers – Part 3 from shannon smith on Vimeo.

Utilizing a Variety of Devices in the Elementary Classroom

At first, encouraging grade 3 students to bring their own devices can be a daunting task. From ipods to blackberries, laptops to androids..incorporating these sometimes “incompatible” devices can seem overwhelming at first.

Fortunately, I have found that using a multitude of platforms is not nearly as difficult as I had once though it might be! Once I realized that using technology should be “task” oriented rather than “app” oriented it all became much easier to wrap my head around.

For instance, having access to the internet at a student’s desk can be invaluable way to bring alive concepts that might otherwise remain abstract for young minds. In grade 3 Social Studies, learning about a rickshaw in India can be much more tangible with a quick search of google images.

All devices “draw”  apps that can be a motivating force when used as a virtual whiteboard. I have found that students are more relaxed and willing to take chances when asked to share their answers this way as compared to the traditional pen and pencil method.

Cameras in the classroom can be a valuable way for students to capture evidence and share their learning. One of my favorite activities this year was when my students participated in a “Fraction Scavenger Hunt” and had to report back to the classroom with picture evidence of 1/2, 3/4, etc.

Students often use their devices for writing purposes. It can be as simple as typing their agenda message, to as complex as updating their personal blog.

Using a variety of devices seems to getting easier all the time. Websites such as “Infuse Learning” which is a student response system, are recognizing the diversity of hardware available.

Of course, it is impossible as a teacher to be a master on every device and operating system, and one thing I have learned is that is okay!  Young people of fearless when it comes to utilizing technology and students learn valuable skills by becoming masters on their own systems. Never underestimate the technology problem solving skills of even your youngest students!

by Tracy Wirtanen

Student Blogs for Student Engagement

Student blogging is one of IREC’s next steps into the digital world. All of the students in my class (and many others in our school) have created their own blogs as a way to showcase their work, share their writing, and explore their communication skills. Though we are using different blog platforms, such as KidBlog and Weebly, the final product is the same: personalized and thoughtful student blogs. Please click on the links below for a sneak peek into some of the blogs currently under construction in our school.

Student blogs are an important way to connect parents to their child’s learning. Parents can see their child’s work, comment on their progress, and have meaningful conversations at home about new accomplishments and challenges that their child is encountering at school.

iPads have become an important learning tool at school, and many applications allow students to showcase their learning by creating picture files of their app-based work. Students are also creating videos and slideshows to share their experiences, to demonstrate a new skill, or to extend their learning.  These can often be inserted into blog posts and shared instantly and meaningfully with parents.

The most important reason for students to create and maintain a blog is to provide regular opportunities for authentic writing. Students are adding posts at school and from home, and are able to connect with their peers and the world on a daily basis through writing. Students can provide feeback to each other, revise and edit their own work, and share their views on many different topics. Blogs also provide excellent lessons on digital citizenship as our yooung writers constantly revisit what is appropriate information to share on the internet.

If your child has a studnet blog, please take the time to visit it often. You can stay informed and involved in daily learning, and your comments and responses mean the world to your child!

IREC’s Excellent Learning Environments Journey

photoAs a school division our  (AISI) Alberta Initiative for School Improvement initiative is to create Excellent Learning Environment for all learners. We are in the first year of a three year cycle for this goal. In year one, our goal is to obtain a working knowledge of the 12 ELEs. This means that we can have a conversations around the ELEs, understand the vocabulary and be able to visualize what each component would look like in a classroom. In year two and three, we will dive even deeper into further creating Excellent Learning Environments in our classrooms.


Excellent Learning Environments (ELEs) are:


Where are we at?

As a school we felt we have a good working knowledge of the 12 ELEs. This is due, in part, to the past 4 AISI cycles providing us  knowledge and understanding around many of the 12 components one at a  time. Therefore, each Professional Learning Team (PLT) has  chosen  one ELE   to work on deepening their understanding, building their skill set and exploring their new knowledge. Each teams goals are posted in the previous post  IREC Education Plan 2012-2013 Goal 2.


As a school we have chosen to research and implement new knowledge around ELE #1 – Culture and Expectations.

As well as, gain new knowledge and a better working understanding in ELE #4 – Planning; Utilizing a Backwards Design Framework.

Culture and Expectations:AISI 6

When we discuss culture and expectations we don’t only mean are the students happy and safe (which we truly know is important).  We are  also discussing is the classroom and the school set up in a way that allows teachers the time to work with students individually or in a small group setting. Do the other children have meaningful learning activities to take part in? Have they worked together with their class to build their independence and their excellent work habits? Is their differentiated learning opportunities for all learning needs?


As the AISI Leader I am fortunate to attend monthly AISI meetings where we have the opportunity to do in depth learning and hands on activities to build my understanding of each ELE. This allows me to bring the knowledge that our leadership team identifies as a need for us back to our staff. I work very closely with the other members of our leadership team to plan and carry out professional learning opportunities for our staff. We meet on a regular basis to plan and discuss how we are doing within our own school setting.

IREC Education Plan 2012.2013: Goal 2

Goal 2: What will be the effect on student achievement if we deepen our understanding of the 12 ELEs within a guided practice structure?

Following are the 12 Components of Excellent Learning Environments:

1. Culture and Expectations

2. Clearly Identified Outcomes/Individual Learning Goals

3. Pre-Assessment

4. Pre-Planning;Utilizing a Backwards Design Framework

5. Utilization of Rubrics and Exemplars

6. Introduction of New Knowledge

7. Experiencing and Developing the New Knowledge

8. Deepening Understanding of the New Knowledge

9. Tracking and Communicating Achievement of Outcomes/Individual Learning Goals

10. Formative Assessment

11. Additional Supports and Pyramids of Intervention

12. Summative Assessment

Specific Strategies:

  • Time allotted on PD days to focus on developing and increasing understanding of all 12 ELEs. RAE (Readiness Awareness Exercise-Pre-Assessment) data indicates IREC (Iron Ridge Elementary Campus) has good starting base of all 12 ELEs. Our intention is to draw on the direction provided by the District Transformational Leader and instruction provided to the Diamond team with respect to exercises, activities or experiences that we can replicate with our staff that will best support growth with respect to all the 12 ELE areas, particularly ELE 1 and ELE 11. We are very aware that differentiated instruction is essential to an excellent learning environment. We want to grow in our ability to apply best practices and strategies (particularly guided practice)  of DI throughout all the 12 ELE components.
  • IREC has created grade level PLTs that have embedded days and time allotted on PD days to focus on developing a deep understanding and ability to apply specific ELE components. All PLTs have been encouraged to include guided practice as part of the lens used to analyze and apply each ELE component. Grade level PLT Action research questions are a follows:
  1. Kindergarten-“Using the lens of ELE #1-Culture and Expectations, we will develop a student learning environment that supports guided practice in Language Learning
  2. Grade 1-“Using the lens of ELE #3 Pre-assessemnt, we will develop a strong pre-assessment plan in Math to provide data that supports students’ learning needs and guides instruction.
  3. Grade 2: “Using the lens of ELE #1-Culture and Expectations, we will develop effective word work practices that meet students’ varying needs to improve student writing.
  4. Grade 3: “Using the lens of ELE #1-Culture and Expectations, we will develop a culture of guided practice in Mathematics.”
  5. Grade 4: “Using the lens of ELE #1 Culture and Expectations, we will develop a structure of activities for student to work independently, while the teacher works with groups of students or 1-on-1. (guided practice).
  6. Educational Assistants: Using the lens onf ELE #1-Culture and Expectations, we will explore and implement strategies to provide diverse learners more independence in a guided practice setting.
  • On PD days we intend to share with the entire staff positive examples related to the 12 ELEs taken from/observed in the classrooms of IREC. Out intent with this is that it is an empowering activity that builds understanding and celebration. Our intent is to review each ELE in context rather that in isolation.
  • IREC is currently involved in a U21C project that ensures that we consider the skills and attitudes of a 21st century learner. Although U21C is embedded in all ELEs, a conscious effort will be given to consider the 12 ELEs through this lens as well.

Measureable: Critical Evidence Indicators:

All data gathered during this year of AISI will be used to determine direction for PD in 2013.2014.

  • AISI 12 ELE Self Assessment-completed in September 2012 and March/April 2013
  • 2012.2013 PAT Data-completed in October/November 2013
  • Accountability Pillar Results for AERR-completed in October 2013
  • IREC Parent/Student/Staff Surveys 2012.2013
  • Feedback from specific ELE Self Assessment Tool used by teachers for PLT work completed in February 2012 and June 2013
  • ELE-Teacher Reflection forms-filled in by teachers following each PLT Meeting-used to determine support and direction for the 2012.2013 school year.
  • CWT cards and reflective conversations
  • Evidence of common language and understanding of ELEs within a guided practice structure
  • Evidence in portfolios, blogs, IEPTs, and in anecdotals


  • Staff apply a fundamental understanding of guided practice to improve instruction for the 21st Century learner.
  • Students gain a grade level benchmark in reading skills
  • Students transfer thinking strategies to other content areas due to the consistency of teaching of common language across the curriculum.


  • Reading with Meaningby Debbie Miller, 21st Century Skills: Learning For Life in Our Times by B.  Trilling & C. Fadel, Strategies that Work:  Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement by S. Harvey & A. Goudvis, Classroom Instruction That Works by R. Marzano
  • Daily CAFÉ on-line resources
  • ELE Resources from Central Office
  • ELE Rubric
  • All pre-assessment material
  • Children’s Literature
  • Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark system
  • Designated time on PD Days and built in PLT time throughout the year

People resources: Diamond Team: Vicky, Karen, Maureen, and Don (SSFs, AISI, and Admin.)

Resources Needed:

  • Direction (lessons, activities, exemplars) for the Diamond team with respect to how to lead and support our staff in deepening the understanding of ELEs that have been identified district wide as being components requiring attend and growth.

Who was involved in setting the strategy:

  • The diamond team established the strategies. The staff of IREC determined the need to focus more intently in the area of guided practice and the 12 ELEs through their grade level team SMART goals
  • RAE instrument
  • AISI 12 ELE Self Assessment

All data gathered during this year of AISI will be used to determine direction for PD in 2013.2014.

  • AISI 12 ELE Self Assessment-completed in September 2012 and March/April 2013
  • 2012.2013 PAT Data-completed in October/November 2013
  • Accountability Pillar Results for AERR-completed in October 2013
  • IREC Parent/Student/Staff Surveys 2012.2013
  • Feedback from specific ELE Self Assessment Tool used by teachers for PLT work completed in February 2012 and June 2013
  • ELE-Teacher Reflection forms-filled in by teachers following each PLT Meeting-used to determine support and direction for the 2012.2013 school year.

IREC Education Plan 2012.2013 Goal 1

Goal 1: What will be the effect on student achievement in communication & collaboration skills if we facilitate the development of the 7Habits, based on timeless principles, to create a trusting, safe & caring community of learners?

Specific Strategies:   

  • Implement 7Habits training for new staff
  • Secure community funding for 7Habits resources
  • Model & teach the 7Habits so that they become embedded in the school culture (ie. digital citizenship)
  • Celebrate at monthly assemblies
  • Celebrate daily through Leadership Awards
  • Provide many student leadership opportunities such as greeters at doors, tour guides, announcements, & M.C.s at assemblies.
  • Share information on the 7Habits with our school council at their regular meetings
  • Support groups which our FSLW facilitates:
  1. Roots of Empathy
  2. Changing Families
  3. Volcano Club
  4. Friends for Life
  5. Grade 4 girls Friendship Club
  6. Grade 4 boys Friendship Club
  7. Friends for Life

Measurable:  Critical Evidence Indicators

  • Student, staff & parent surveys.
  • Discipline reports from PowerSchool.
  • Evidence of common language and understanding of 7Habits in portfolios, behavior plans, IEPTs and IPPs  and in daily interactions.
  • Conversations with stakeholders (face to face, school council, Twitter, Classroom Blogs etc.)


  • Apply a fundamental understanding of the 7Habits to enhance communication & collaboration skills for the 21st Century.
  • Apply a fundamental understanding of the moral issues surrounding digital citizenship.


  • Leader in Me and The 8th Habit by Stephen Covey, 21st Century Skills: Learning For Life in Our Times by B.  Trilling & C. Fadel, The Bully, the Bullies & the Bystander by B. Coloroso.
  • •7 Habits Trainer Resources, Teacher Resources, and on-line resources
  • The Leader in Me Website
  • Children’s Literature
  • WCPS Digital Citizenship on-line resouces
  • People resources: Maureen, Don & Gail Green at FranklinCovey
  • entire school year